Trakai is an attractive village 40km to the west of Vilnius. The old village is surrounded by lakes but most visitors head straight for the Gothic Island Castle to the north of the village. Trakai has a unique and complex history which includes descendents of the nearly extinct Lithuanian Karaite religion who speak a language derived from the Turks.
It’s an easy to get to Trakai – it’s well served by trains and buses. The bus will drop you off in the village centre but we opted to go by train which was a comfortable and scenic journey to the train station just outside of Trakai village [or is it a small town?]. We then had a delightful 20 minute walk by the lake to get to Trakai. The double decker trains were great! You buy your ticket to Trakai at Vilnius Railway Station and buy your return ticket from the conductor on the train back to Vilnius. The train timetable is easy to understand at Trakai station, so make a note of the return times when you arrive as the service to Vilnius is not that frequent.
The walk to Trakai.
If you are fit and able the lakeside walk to Trakai from the train station is lovely and skirts the main village itself but you can walk through the village after visiting the castle. There are a few eating establishments in the village but you could also bring a picnic if it’s a warm day. On our visit in March it was bitterly cold and most of the lakes were completely frozen.
The old village is on a narrow peninsular with lakes on three sides. There are a couple of churches worthy of visiting, an ethnographic museum, a meeting house and the remnants of a 14th century castle as well as some attractive wooden Karaim houses.
The Trakai Baslica of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a 15th Century Church that has a lovely Baroque interior as well as a statue of our most favritist smileyist Pope outside.
The Trakai Orthodox Church of the Nativity of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary [which wins my award for the longest name of a church] was sadly locked when we visited.
I can also recommend stopping for a drinky and traditional Karaim pastries at Kybynlar which has a pleasant pub vibe and is on the main road in the the old town near the Peninsular Castle.
Trakai Island Castle
The Island Castle is probably your main reason for coming to Trakai. You approach the castle via a long wooden bridge from Trakai over Lake Galvė. The 14th Century Castle has been sensitively restored and now houses a fine History Museum. The Castle wall protects the central Ducal Palace where you will find the main part of the museum.
You can walk around the castle for free, it’s an ideal spot for a picnic [not when we visited though – bbrrr!]. There’s a fee to enter the Castle, Palace and Museum. The castle wall surrounds a large courtyard and there are interesting museum collections on display in many of the chambers within the walls as well as a museum shop and a public toilet.
You enter the Palace where the drawbridge used to be and you are greeted by a courtyard with a lot of wooden steps leading to various chambers that houses the History Museum.
The History Museum is excellent and has extensive displays and artifacts from the local area and beyond. There’s plenty of English explanation which will help you understand the history of Trakai – it’s complicated!